When producing smartphones, tablets and television displays, the material of indium tin oxide is critical. The price of this material strongly affects the overall prices of the entire technology industry. However, scientists may have found some potentially inexpensive alternatives to indium tin oxide that could shake up the entire the technology market as we know it. These promising materials are said to be both highly transparent and extremely conductive of electricity, making them ideal for use in display applications.  

Over time, the cost of producing touch-sensitive and shatter-proof displays has continued to increase. Such displays are often highly dependent upon indium tin oxide. This material is easy to make, easy to shape, efficiently conducts electricity and has outstanding optical properties. However, the price for indium tin oxide has skyrocketed over the past decade, as it currently costs more than $750 for a single kilogram. Despite this major increase in price, no other materials have been able challenge the market dominance of indium tin oxide.

But recently, a team of researchers led by Pennsylvania State University Professor Roman Engel-Herbert has started examining the issue from a new perspective. They have been trying to create a new material that would offer the same properties of indium tin oxide while being accessible at a much cheaper price.

The team is focusing its efforts on two electricity-conducting correlated metals, known as strontium vanadate and calcium vanadate. When combined with oxygen, both of these metals demonstrate strong optical properties. While more work still needs to be done, Engel-Herbert believes that these metals, which cost no more than $25 per kilogram, might be the secret to changing the technology industry forever.

Engel-Herbert said in a statement, “Our correlated metals work really well compared to ITO (indium tin oxide). Now, the question is how to implement these new materials into a large-scale manufacturing process. From what we understand right now, there is no reason that strontium vanadate could not replace ITO in the same equipment currently used in industry.”

If Engel-Herbert and his team are successful, they will send shockwaves through the entire technology industry, leading to major price decreases on extremely popular goods. Time will tell if the scientists are successful in their latest endeavor.

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